What is Respectful Relationships Education?
Respectful Relationships Education (RRE) assists schools to facilitate primary prevention of gender based violence. RRE specifically and pointedly addresses gender inequality, respectful and non-violent relationships.
The prominence of Respectful Relationships Education has increased in recent years, with the link between this curriculum area and primary prevention of gender based violence becoming more widely understood.
What does Gender Based Violence have to do with schools?
In addition to academic skills, schools engage in teaching and modelling of positive social attitudes, personal resilience and wellbeing. Children and young people spend significant parts of their lives in the school environment, a place where their skills, attitudes, values and norms are shaped and developed.
Prevention initiatives working specifically with children and young people aim to shape positive and equitable attitudes and behaviours at an early stage of life. Attitudes, values and norms that do not accept violence can have a positive impact in reducing violence in our community through cultural and generational change.
Schools therefore have a unique opportunity and critical role in contributing to generational change in preventing Gender Based Violence.
In Australia, violence against women is called many different things, including domestic violence, family violence, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault. This webpage uses “gender based violence” to refer to all of these terms, as all affect women disproportionately. Refer to the page on Directorate’s website Domestic and Family Violence Support.
What are we already doing in schools and what can we continue to build on?
Schools are already doing a lot of work in assisting students to build the skills, values and attitudes that will assist them to develop and maintain positive, healthy and respectful relationships.
For example, many schools-
- have school mottos and values that are reinforced through school activities which include concepts such as of respect, equality and kindness (or similar);
- have behavioural approaches that explicitly teach positive behaviour and respect for others, for example Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL);
- deliver Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs in line with the Directorate’s Safe and Supportive Schools Policy (2016) Canberra public schools;
- are using programs such as KidsMatter, Mindmatters that embed values such as respect into school routines, assisting to develop a whole school approach;
- regularly use restorative approaches and strategies that facilitate students to develop skills such as problem solving and empathy, for example Circle Time;
- use Pastoral Care programs to focus on social and emotional programs.
Whilst these approaches are great building blocks, a school’s approach is not comprehensive without a focus on Respectful Relationships Education, which specifically addresses gender inequality, respectful and non-violent relationships. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) forms a strong foundation and a logical starting point from which to engage in more explicit work with students around gender norms, gender identity and respectful relationships.
RRE can be integrated into existing school processes and curriculum. RRE is most effective when used as part of a whole school approach, which involves providing students with multiple exposure to key messages across the curriculum and in different areas of the school and community. This should involve the whole school community, including students, staff and the wider school community in the process of cultural change. It is about embedding the approach across the entire school through policy, practice, procedures, staffing, environment, leadership and culture, as well as within the classroom.
What extra resources can we access?
Our WATCh: Whole School Approach Toolkit
This Toolkit has been created by Our Watch to support schools in delivering Respectful Relationships Education, and was developed as part of the Respectful Relationships Education in Schools (RREiS) pilot.
The Line Campaign
Our Watch delivers The Line, a primary prevention behaviour change campaign for young people aged 12 to 20 years. The Line also supports parents, carers, teachers, educators, coaches and other influential people.
This website talks about relationships, gender, sex, bystander action, technology and communication; how to keep it healthy and respectful, and avoid crossing the line into behaviour that makes someone feel frightened, intimidated or diminished.
The teachers page of this website provide a range of resources including discussing and promoting gender equity for the classroom, talking to students about privilege and power.
Social and Emotional Learning
Tasmanian Department of Education
The Tasmanian Department of Education maintains a whole-of-system, research based approach to developing and maintaining respectful relationships education. At the centre of this initiative is an online and publicly available resource package, incorporating teaching and learning sequences, strategies, processes and skills to guide schools and communities in the explicit teaching of respectful relationships education. The resources are designed to support school communities model positive environments and appropriate behaviours in which individuals know, understand and engage in equitable and respectful relationships. They are mapped to the Australian Curriculum. https://respectfulrelationships.education.tas.gov.au/
Victoria Education and Training
The Victorian Government is implementing Respectful Relationships across Victorian schools and early childhood service. In 2016, respectful relationships education became a core component of the Victorian Curriculum from Foundation to year 12, and is being taught in all government and Catholic schools and many independent schools. Victoria’s approach aims to embeds a culture of respect and equality across our entire community, from our classrooms to staffrooms, sporting fields, fetes and social events. This approach leads to positive impacts on student’s academic outcomes, their mental health, classroom behaviour, and relationships between teachers and students.
Queensland Department of Education and Training
The Respectful relationships education program has been developed for Prep to Year 12 students. The Prep to Year 10 programs are aligned to the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education and can be delivered through this learning area or as part of the school's pastoral care program. The Years 11 and 12 programs are designed to be delivered through pastoral care programs. Five hours of instruction have been developed for each year level. Specialised resources for schools and teachers include program guidelines, teaching overviews and resources for each year level. All resources are practical and easy to use and encourage the use of social and emotional learning pedagogy including group work, discussion, role plays, scenario work and empathy-based inquiry. They provide opportunities for teachers to guide discussions, address concerns, and help students work through sensitive and complex issues. The teaching resources are available online to ACT public schools via via Scootle (the National Digital Learning Resources Network managed by Education Services Australia).